Don’t let me out, Anchorites, Submariners, and Escape Artists!
Welcome to my cell. Oh, no, that really isn’t necessary. I know you think you’d be rescuing me but…well, I don’t think your human mind is quite ready to understand. I’m just fine. Because…
This week’s Writing Group prompt is:
I Locked Myself in Here
RULES AND GUIDELINES BELOW!
Make sure you scroll down and read them if you haven’t! You may not be eligible if you don’t!
This prompt is deliciously angsty, and one that I am quite excited for. Usually being locked in is an unwanted fate. But what happens when someone puts themselves in a cage? My mind spins with many possible reasons one might do so, and that is where the fun begins.
You could write about a werewolf-type situation, where a character knows they will transform somehow and, to protect their loved ones, they lock themselves away. This could be something that happens for a single night beneath the full moon, it could be for a week (perhaps someone who asked to become a vampire knows they can’t control their cravings), or it could be for longer if someone knows they will permanently become a monster (such as a zombie). This transformation doesn’t necessarily have to be violent, though. Think of Hermoine, when she accidentally used cat hair in the polyjuice potion. Even a terrible villain might have a cuteness spell cast on them, and they lock themselves away so their henchmen won’t see them.
That idea of not wanting to be seen doesn’t just apply to magical situations. A child who cut their own hair, or did their own makeup for the first time, might hide away, not wanting anyone to see them. Or perhaps they lock themselves away because they broke a rule and don’t want to be punished. A teenager might lock themselves in the school bathroom after getting pantsed in front of the whole cafeteria. Even an adult might hide in the broom closet at work because they don’t want their coworkers to see them cry.
Another, more realistic, take is mental illness. There is a wide variety of possibilities for why a mental illness might cause someone to lock themselves away. Someone in a manic or psychotic episode might lock their office door and rave to themselves. Someone who regularly experiences dissociative fugues might lock themselves away so that they don’t wake up and find themselves in another town over. Someone with a particularly intense anxiety disorder might lock themselves away because they’re afraid of the world outside. Someone with depression might lock themselves in their room, unable to do anything but lay in bed.
There is an idea that “Hell’s gates are locked from the inside.” You could play with this idea in many different ways. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, uses it well. The ghost of Marley says: “I wear the chain I forged in life…I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.” This could be an interesting direction to take the prompt. What choices of ours symbolically lock us away? Sometimes you might feel as if you are watching this happen from the outside—anyone who knew Scrooge could see he created his own chains through his miserly living. Perhaps you could write about what it’s like to watch someone lock themselves away…even though they don’t see the spiritual prison walls they’re creating.
You could go even more literal than that. Oftentimes we lock pieces of ourselves away that we are afraid will get hurt. You could write about how someone locked a part of themselves away in their own heart—they don’t let their creativity shine, they hide their sensitivity, they don’t let themselves pursue their true passion in life.
Even an event could count as this. It makes me think of the Sanders Sides episode where Thomas wants to go to an acting callback…but he promised his friends he would go to their wedding, and can’t back out now. He “locked” himself into that event. There are lots of plans I could see someone feeling like they’re locked into that they can’t get out of.
Even simply a promise can be a locking mechanism, regardless if it’s tied to a calendar date. A character will often want to get out of a promise, but they can only blame themselves for making it in the first place. The Unbreakable Vow in Harry Potter is a particularly strong example of a promise you might lock yourself into. A contract is another type of promise that is particularly binding. Like how Ariel signed her life away to Ursula if she didn’t get Eric to kiss her within three days. Watching it, we know the agreement is ridiculous…but people still choose to make ridiculous agreements like this all the time.
Even though I do love me some angst, I also love me some comedy, and this prompt has some great opportunities for that as well. A character might accidentally lock themselves in somewhere. Maybe a locksmith, while trying to fix a broken lock, ends up trapping themselves in the room. A character might build a maze…only to trap themselves inside it. Maybe someone locks themselves away during a party for some peace and quiet. A group of friends could ‘rescue’ their friend from a cage…only for the person locked inside to look up placidly and ask them if they want tea.
A character like Houdini would be a great use of this prompt as well. Houdini would often lock himself up in order to break himself out and amaze his audience. You could write about all sorts of magicians, escape artists, and the like who intentionally lock themselves up to break themselves out. You could also write about a character who purposely allows themselves to be imprisoned because they know they can get out. Maybe they are planning to help their previously captured friends escape, or they want to steal something from the palace, and the best way to do that is by letting themselves get thrown in the dungeon.
My technical challenge to you this week is a result of one of our conversations during the “Under the Monster’s Bed” stream. I challenge you to use either asyndeton or polysyndeton in your story. (Bonus points if you use both).
Polysyndeton is when you repeat conjunctions (For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet), like so: I think I want ice cream, or cookies, or brownies, or waffles, or cake. Your brain focuses more on the conjunctions than the actual words, so it is often used to overwhelm the reader, and/or convey a character’s excitement, and/or convey their anxiety. (Eh? See what I did there?).
Asyndeton is the opposite, the lack of conjunctions, including where there ordinarily would be one: I like ice cream, cookies, brownies, waffles, cake. (Note, there is no “and” before that final “cake” even though there ordinarily would be). “Veni, Vidi, Vici.” (“I came, I saw, I conquered.”) is perhaps the most famous example of this device. Asyndeton often really makes you pay attention to the specific words being said, with nothing to detract from them, and/or it can create a faster pace to the sentence. (Think about if the sentence was “I came, and I saw, and I conquered.” Can you see how the “and”s make the meaning of each individual phrase pop less, as well as slow down the sentence?)
My content challenge also comes from a stream! (The “I Wasn’t Aiming for You” stream). This prompt lends itself well to introspection, and/or a character monologuing. If you do want to write one of these types of stories, my challenge to you is to intersperse the introspection/monologue with action to capture audience attention. Instead of being stuck in a person’s head or being “talked at,” add character bits that tell us more about who they are and who they’re talking to. Bonus points if the action of the story mirrors well the introspection! You can also do this in reverse: if you plan to write a more action-heavy piece, try interspersing it with some introspection!
Remember, these challenges aren’t mandatory! They are meant to be a fun bonus if you’d like to have a little extra challenge. But, if you don’t want to use them, please don’t feel obligated to!
You see, little hero, reality is the true prison. I let them put me in here. That key in your hand is worthless. There’s another sort of key much more difficult to procure, and a lock hidden in the furthest reaches of your mind. When you unlock that door, well, you’ll realize these metal bars are nothing.
—Kaylie & Pearce
Remember, this is part of our weekly Writing Group stream! Submit a little piece following the rules and guidelines below, and there’s a chance your entry will be read live on stream! In addition, we’ll discuss it for a minute and give you some feedback.
The whole purpose of this is to show off the creativity of the community, while also helping each other to become better writers. Lean into that spirit! Get ready not just to share what you’ve got, but to give back to the other writers here as well.
Rules and Guidelines
We read at least five stories during each stream, two of which come from the public post, and three of which come from the much smaller private post. Submissions are randomly selected by a bot, but likes on your post will improve your chances of selection, so be sure to share your submission on social media!
Text and Formatting
- English only.
- Prose only, no poetry or lyrics.
- Use proper spelling, grammar, and syntax.
- Your piece must be between 250-350 words (you can use this website to see your wordcount).
- Use two paragraph breaks between each paragraph so that they have a proper space between them (press “enter” or “return” twice).
- Include a submission title and an author name (doesn’t have to be your real name). Do not include any additional symbols or flourishes in this part of your submission. Format them exactly as you see in this example, or your submission may not be eligible: Example Submission.
- No additional text styling (such as italics or bold text). Do not use asterisks, hyphens, or any other symbol to indicate whether text should be bold, italic, or styled in any other way. CAPS are okay, though.
What to Submit
- Keep submissions “safe-for-work”; be sparing with sexuality, violence, and profanity.
- Try to focus on making your submission a single meaningful moment rather than an entire story.
- Write something brand new; no re-submitting past entries or pieces written for other purposes
- No fan fiction whatsoever. Take inspiration from whatever you’d like, but be transformative and creative with it. By submitting, you also agree that your piece does not infringe on any existing copyrights or trademarks, and you have full license to use it.
- Submissions must be self-contained (everything essential to understanding the piece is contained within the context of the piece itself—no mandatory reading outside the piece required. e.g., if you want to write two different pieces in the same setting or larger narrative, you cannot rely on information from one piece to fill in for the other—they must both give that context independently).
- One submission per participant.
- Submit your entry in a comment on this post.
- Submissions close at 12:00pm CST each Friday.
- You must like and leave a review on two other submissions to be eligible. Your reviews must be at least 50 words long, and must be left directly on the submission you are reviewing, not on another comment. If you’re submitting to the private post, feel free to leave these reviews on either the private or the public post. The two submissions you like need not be the same as the submissions you review.
- Be constructive and uplifting. These submissions are not for a professional market, and shouldn’t be treated as such. We do this, first and foremost, for the joy of the craft. Help other writers to feel like their work is valuable, and be considerate and gentle with critique when you offer it. Authors who leave particularly abrasive or disheartening remarks on this post will be disqualified from selection for readings.
- Use the same e-mail for your posts, reviews, and likes, or you may be rendered ineligible (you may change your username or author name between posts without problem, however).
- You may submit to either or both the public/private groups if you have access, but if you decide to submit to both, only the private group submission will be eligible.
- Understand that by submitting here, you are giving us permission to read your submission aloud live on stream and upload public, archived recordings of said stream to our social media platforms. You will always be credited, but only by the author name you supply as per these rules. No other links or attributions are guaranteed.
Comments on this post that aren’t submissions will be deleted, except for replies/reviews left on existing submissions.